The story of how Homo sapiens spread from Africa to the rest of the world is a tangled epic, full of false starts and dead ends. Yet perhaps nowhere is the puzzle more difficult than in the Americas, two landmasses divided from the rest of the world by two huge oceans. Zoom out, though, and you'll see that isolation has only been imposed for the last 11,000 years; before then, a narrow land bridge called Beringia stretched between Siberia and Alaska, providing an icy highway for travelers. This week, scientists reported explosive new findings on the genetic story of one of those ancient travelers: an infant girl named Xach'itee'aanenh T'eede Gaay by the local indigenous people, who lived for a brief time 11,500 years ago in an Alaskan community now called Upward Sun River. The infant's genome has the power to rewrite what we know about the human journey into North America -- and in doing so, points to the larger genetic revolution that is reshaping the field of archaeology. read more
While the world remains distracted by the constant circus surrounding the Trump White House, I sense a different kind of power play, and potential American future, brewing beneath the surface at 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue: Ivanka Trump becoming the first female president of the United States. Whatever you think of the character and presidency of Donald Trump, it's clear he adores his daughter Ivanka, and cherishes the totemic power of his name. And what better way to ensure his family's legacy than by setting up his daughter, already installed in the West Wing, to assume the presidency? In our current topsy-turvy political era, stranger things have already happened. Let's take a look at a few potential Twilight Zone scenarios, which aren't as unlikely as they once might have seemed. read more
The bottom of the ocean is more of a "sunken place" than it used to be. In recent decades, melting ice sheets and glaciers driven by climate change are swelling Earth's oceans. And along with all that water comes an unexpected consequence -- the weight of the additional liquid is pressing down on the seafloor, causing it to sink. Consequently, measurements and predictions of sea-level rise may have been incorrect since 1993, underestimating the growing volume of water in the oceans due to the receding bottom, according to a new study. Scientists have long known that Earth's crust, or outer layer, is elastic: Earlier research revealed how Earth's surface warps in response to tidal movements that redistribute masses of water; and 2017's Hurricane Harvey dumped so much water on Texas that the ground dropped 0.8 inches (2 centimeters), the Atlantic reported. read more
There's something about a new year that gets people reflective about their lives. They think that when the page turns to a new year, the things they need to do to improve their lives will come into focus. Old bad habits are wiped from the slate and forgotten. Start an exercise program, lose weight, get laid more. Travel, read more books, contact forgotten friends. Whatever deficiency they think exists in their life will now be made whole with dedication and willpower. This year I will again make the same simple resolution that I've made for the last several years, Be better in every way. What's yours?